As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Bulloch County rose to 23 Thursday, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) expanded testing availability to include residents experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Those who want to be tested will still have to get a referral from the local health department or their health care provider, but testing is no longer restricted to those considered “at risk,” said Bulloch County Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn.
The Georgia Department of Health (DPH) specimen collection center at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds on Highway 67 is open weekday until 5 p.m. and now on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon.
“All symptomatic individuals will be eligible for COVID-19 testing,” he said. Symptoms may include fever, loss of taste and smell, dry cough, shortness of breath and headache.
Due to the dangers of their professions, as well as close proximity to a large number of people, “Health care workers, first responders, law enforcement and long-term care facility residents and staff will still be prioritized for testing regardless of whether they are or are not symptomatic,” he said.
Locally, efforts to help those in need continue through volunteers such as Christian Social Ministries (CSM) and Bulloch County VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.) Bulloch County Schools feeds around 2,500 students daily, handing out packets with two meals each, and Bulloch County Public Safety/EMA continues working with the state to secure a supply of personal protective equipment for an ongoing need, Wynn said.
As of Wednesday, there had been only one fatal case of COVID-19 reported in Bulloch County. There were five patients being treated at East Georgia Regional Medical Center who are positive for coronavirus. Bulloch County EMS had transported 5 COVID positive patients as of Wednesday, “as well as seven probable positives,” he said.
Across Georgia Wednesday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 15,368, with 3,260 hospitalized. The death toll was 617, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website.